Searching for God

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Life_Journey_of_Matt
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Searching for God

Post by Life_Journey_of_Matt » 11 Feb 2013, 22:49

Hello everyone. I hope this finds you all well. I'm new here, so I'll just launch right in.

I am 30, blissfully married, have a beautiful daughter that enters nursery next week, and am actively attending church. I have, however, finally admitted that I am racked with uncertainty and have been going through life as just another cog in the Mormon machine. I was raised in the church, so I've gotten really good at knowing the "right" answers, but I'm finding more and more often that they aren't MY answers, at least not completely. I feel like rather than spending the last 30 years trying to find God and develop a personal relationship, I've been spending the last 30 years just trying not to step out of line. That's an over-generalization, but that's the gist.

The veins of uncertainty I'm dealing with run all the way to the core of my belief system. I still have very concrete opinions about the importance of focusing our lives around kindness, civility, gratitude, goodness, and love, and the church has played a big role in helping me establish that moral compass over the years. What I can no longer do, however, is buy into knowledge claims. I cannot claim to know that there's a God, or that I know anything about His/Her nature. I don't know what this life is or what happens when it's all over. I mean, is this life really just some big social experiment in which we're all being tested to see if we'll behave ourselves while Mommy and Daddy aren't around...except we all have amnesia so we don't remember Mommy and Daddy? If this really is the case, I want to know why. But how do I do that? With the Spirit? I have experienced peaceful, comforting feelings all my life that a true believer would attribute to the Spirit of God, but those same feelings are often discounted as just emotions by the non-believer. So who's right? I very much hope that there is more to this life than what we physically observe, and I actually still very much fall into the camp of the theist (meaning that I think there is a lot more to this existence than meets the eye), I just don't claim to know one way or the other. SamIam recently posted a link to an article that describes many aspects of my situation very well. Here it is again: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/20 ... -agnostic/

I struggle with the statement I hear repeatedly (especially on the first Sunday of the month) that members "know the church is true." What does this statement even mean? It could mean any number of things. Does it mean that they believe that everything that's been taught by our current and past leaders is infallible? Such a person would just be begging to be misled. I do not believe every doctrine that has ever been taught by the church, and I'm far from believing the church is currently right about everything. Also, are they implying that every other church is false? If so, I believe that to be grossly misguided. D&C 10:67 states:
Behold, this is my doctrine—whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church.
I can almost guarantee you that there are millions of people alive today to whom the words of this verse would surely apply, and they are NOT members of the "true" church. My hope is that most of the people who claim to "know the church is true" simply mean that they find great guidance from various LDS teachings and enjoy the fellowship of others who share their beliefs. I recently listened to a series of talks given by a Franciscan priest named Richard Rohr called True Self, False Self (which I got for free by signing up for Amazon's Audible.com). This non-member shared with me some of the most prophetic insights I have ever heard, and when I say ever, I include 30 years of exposure to the teachings of ancient and modern prophets and apostles. In his talks, Rohr mentions the need to have our own mystical experiences, and to feel free enough to find God in our own way...to break free of the tribalism and the apparent need to feel like we fit in with a particular group.

At times, I find the church to be almost stiflingly dogmatic. I find it ironic that a church that was founded on such a brilliant eruption of mystical revelation appears to me to be so dormant now. This volcanic analogy is something that I adopted from a 1989 article by a monk named David Steindl-Rast about The Mystical Core of Organized Religion. Here's the link: http://csp.org/experience/docs/steindl-mystical.html The idea is that religions are founded based on a desire to share a powerful mystical experience with others. It explains how, in an attempt to interpret this mystical experience, our minds turn truth, goodness and beauty into doctrine, ethics and ritual (the foundations of a religion). But over time, doctrine, ethics and ritual crystallize into colder dogmatism, legalism, and ritualism. As we get farther removed from the original mystical experience, layer upon layer of interpretations stifle the original brilliance, and that religion needs to be renewed. When I first read this it struck me how PERFECTLY this applied to the LDS church and what I was experiencing. It helped me realize that I needed to figure this stuff out for myself...that if God was out there I needed to find Him/Her.

Having said all of this, I can still consider myself a follower of Jesus Christ, and I very much remain a part of the LDS church. I have looked into many other churches, and have found nothing yet that would replace what I already have. In fact, I find more and more that our core beliefs about how to behave toward others are the same as those of most of our fellow theists, regardless of religious affiliation. I also feel like others often have a valuable, differing perspective that I can learn a lot from. One of the groups I can not currently side with, however, is the atheist, and this is for two reasons. 1) They have no more evidence of the true origins of our existence than the theists. If the universe sprang into existence with a bang, who pulled the trigger? 2) I find the atheist's view of the afterlife to be a bit too depressing.

So, here I am. I know that is an awful lot of information I just spewed out :? , but I wanted to be somewhat thorough. Oh, and my wife is completely in the loop. She was startled at first, but has been wonderfully supportive, probably because I've been working openly and honestly with my Bishop and a member of my stake presidency about my feelings, and I really have been actively searching for answers. Now I just hope I can find some.

Thanks for reading, and I look forward to being a part of the discussions!
"So oft in theologic wars / The disputants, I ween, / Rail on in utter ignorance / Of what each other mean / And prate about an Elephant / Not one of them has seen." -- from "The Blind Men and the Elephant" by John Godfrey Saxe

"The faith that stands on authority is not faith. The reliance on authority measures the decline of religion, the withdrawal of the soul." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

My ongoing story: http://precariousironrod.com/

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eman
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Re: Searching for God

Post by eman » 11 Feb 2013, 23:20

Welcome Matt!

I look forward to you sharing more of your journey with us and participating in our discussions! :wave:
-
“I want the liberty of thinking and believing as I please. It feels so good not to be trammelled. It does not prove that a man is not a good man because he errs in doctrine.” (Joseph Smith, Discourse to Saints, April 1843; DHC 5:340)

Curt Sunshine
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Re: Searching for God

Post by Curt Sunshine » 11 Feb 2013, 23:25

Welcome. I too hope we can learn from and help each other in real and practical ways.
What I can no longer do, however, is buy into knowledge claims.


Yeah, we have stressed knowledge so much recently that we are losing sight of faith, so twist a definition somewhat. I value faith and belief as highly as knowledge, and finding that value has been a huge part of establishing my own internal peace. I feel like that alone is an important part of the truth that has set me free - to participate and engage on my own terms and to focus on the Gospel.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

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hawkgrrrl
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Re: Searching for God

Post by hawkgrrrl » 12 Feb 2013, 03:33

I struggle with the statement I hear repeatedly (especially on the first Sunday of the month) that members "know the church is true." What does this statement even mean? It could mean any number of things.
It means different things to different people. I find it uncomfortable too. But I find it equally uncomfortable when people say they know it's not true. It is that people claim knowledge of something that is in the realm of belief that doesn't work for me. But people are seldom precise in their language.
At times, I find the church to be almost stiflingly dogmatic.
I totally agree! Someone said that some parents are "authoritarian" (credible based on respect for authority - "do it because I said so") while others are "authoritative" (credible based on personal experience with their advice or accurate information provided). I think somewhere the church went from being primarily the latter to being primarily the former. But it's a cultural shift - some members seem to require being told what to do. They are more comfortable with someone else calling the shots rather than taking responsibility for their own choices.

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Orson
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Re: Searching for God

Post by Orson » 12 Feb 2013, 08:35

Welcome! I relate to much of what you say, I look forward to hearing more of your insights.
My avatar - both physical and spiritual.

I first found faith, and thought I had all truth. I then discovered doubt, and claimed a more accurate truth. Now I’ve greeted paradox and a deeper truth than I have ever known.

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Life_Journey_of_Matt
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Re: Searching for God

Post by Life_Journey_of_Matt » 12 Feb 2013, 12:03

Thanks everyone! An open forum like this really makes me wish we could all meet in our own special Sunday School class every week. With what I've gleaned from the site and the forum already, I think so many of you have probably experienced things that could be very insightful to me right now.
I find it equally uncomfortable when people say they know it's not true.
Absolutely, 100% amen to that.
Someone said that some parents are "authoritarian" (credible based on respect for authority - "do it because I said so") while others are "authoritative" (credible based on personal experience with their advice or accurate information provided). I think somewhere the church went from being primarily the latter to being primarily the former. But it's a cultural shift - some members seem to require being told what to do. They are more comfortable with someone else calling the shots rather than taking responsibility for their own choices.
hawkgrrrl, great line of thought! As a new parent I have contemplated the idea of how much to shelter my child. The movie Finding Nemo often comes to mind. In one particular instance I believe Marlin is explaining their need to escape because of a promise he made to his son to protect him.
Marlin: I promised I'd never let anything happen to him.
Dory: Hmm. That's a funny thing to promise.
Marlin: What?
Dory: Well, you can't never let anything happen to him. Then nothing would ever happen to him. Not much fun for little Harpo.
I think it can safely be said that Dory's comment runs far deeper than the realm of "fun," and can be applied in a far wider scope than that of parenthood. I often feel like I'm a child of the church organization, and the church is so afraid of losing me and is trying so hard to protect me that I'm missing out on the entire purpose of life. Richard Rohr alludes to the idea that life is all about the fall. We fall, we recognize the fall, we surrender our egos, we let God or others help pick us back up (sanctify us), and as a result we have a more valuable understanding of existence. Rinse and repeat...until the day we die and maybe beyond. One of the things I distinctly remember my father mentioning in response to some of my probing questions was, "We just don't ask those questions." Luckily, I think I've realized that the way I should have interpreted that was Those are hard questions, and the answers we DO have are not always pleasant or easy to understand.
Last edited by Life_Journey_of_Matt on 12 Feb 2013, 16:56, edited 1 time in total.
"So oft in theologic wars / The disputants, I ween, / Rail on in utter ignorance / Of what each other mean / And prate about an Elephant / Not one of them has seen." -- from "The Blind Men and the Elephant" by John Godfrey Saxe

"The faith that stands on authority is not faith. The reliance on authority measures the decline of religion, the withdrawal of the soul." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

My ongoing story: http://precariousironrod.com/

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eman
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Re: Searching for God

Post by eman » 12 Feb 2013, 13:14

Life_Journey_of_Matt wrote: I often feel like I'm a child of the church organization, and the church is so afraid of losing me and is trying so hard to protect me that I'm missing out on the entire purpose of life.
So true! I think D&C 89 is applicable here.
3. Given for a principle with promise, adapted to the capacity of the weak and the weakest of all saints, who are or can be called saints.
I believe sometimes all of church is run this way, for the weakest of all saints. Thus we always get milk. Eventually it's not satisfying enough and we realize that we have to take charge of our own spirituality.

Oh, and I think it would be awesome to have all of us in GD together. I get a small feel for this sometimes when a certain member of the class makes comments. You could say they are the voice of reason. I highly suspect (though I haven't confronted them) that they have passed through a faith transition.
-
“I want the liberty of thinking and believing as I please. It feels so good not to be trammelled. It does not prove that a man is not a good man because he errs in doctrine.” (Joseph Smith, Discourse to Saints, April 1843; DHC 5:340)

Roadrunner
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Re: Searching for God

Post by Roadrunner » 12 Feb 2013, 13:26

Welcome Matt,
Good to have you here. Sounds like you've put a lot of thought and soul-searching in this. I look forward to your insights. A couple of things you said below resonate with me.
Life_Journey_of_Matt wrote:I struggle with the statement I hear repeatedly (especially on the first Sunday of the month) that members "know the church is true." What does this statement even mean?
I struggle with this a lot and these days I never say "I know the church is true." I say the Gospel is true or I know God lives. I will say I know Joseph Smith restored the church and that the BofM is scripture, but what I don't say publicly is that my definition of scripture my differ from theirs and that by "restored the church" I basically mean he started the church. Even saying I "know" God lives is a bit of a stretch since it's really more of a "I really really hope we have a benevolent, loving Heavenly Father."
Life_Journey_of_Matt wrote:One of the groups I can not currently side with, however, is the atheist, and this is for two reasons. 1) They have no more evidence of the true origins of our existence than the theists. If the universe sprang into existence with a bang, who pulled the trigger? 2) I find the atheist's view of the afterlife to be a bit too depressing.
1) agree
and
2) agree

I find a true atheist position illogical and inconsistent and so I consider myself sort of an agnostic deist if there is such a thing. I've seen things that tend to point to a creator, and as an amateur astronomer it still seems that someone would have to pull the big-bang trigger as you put it. Plus I think living forever with a beautiful wife with both of us having perfect bodies would be fun. Disappearing into nothingness is indeed depressing.

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Life_Journey_of_Matt
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Re: Searching for God

Post by Life_Journey_of_Matt » 12 Feb 2013, 14:44

eman,
You inspired a point that I would like to make. I don't want to sound like I'm blaming the church for everything. In the end my spirituality is my responsibility, so the buck stops here. Thanks.

Roadrunner,
I believe I understand what you mean by "agnostic deist," and I think that's a great way to put it. I have recently started seeing myself as more of an agnostic theist. By "agnostic" I mean that I don't claim to have knowledge or proof that there is or isn't a God, and by "theist" I mean that I continue to hold to the belief that there probably is a higher power, as well as a realm of existence we don't fully understand in our current state.

I have seen "agnostic" used in a way that would infer that we aren't even capable of knowing whether or not God exists, but then how could someone claim to know that detail? I'm sticking with my interpretation of just withholding knowledge claims. :smile:
Last edited by Life_Journey_of_Matt on 12 Feb 2013, 17:01, edited 1 time in total.
"So oft in theologic wars / The disputants, I ween, / Rail on in utter ignorance / Of what each other mean / And prate about an Elephant / Not one of them has seen." -- from "The Blind Men and the Elephant" by John Godfrey Saxe

"The faith that stands on authority is not faith. The reliance on authority measures the decline of religion, the withdrawal of the soul." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

My ongoing story: http://precariousironrod.com/

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Kumahito
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Re: Searching for God

Post by Kumahito » 12 Feb 2013, 15:13

Thank you, Matt. That was a very articulate explanation that closely mirrors my own. I like your "agnostic theist" category. I guess I'd say I'm one or two steps further right (or is it left?) of you in that I do firmly believe there is a God, but once we get further away from that core my beliefs become more agnostic.

I particularly liked your point about staying with the Church for the simple reason that no other alternative church or religion stands out as being demonstrably better. While I'm certainly not a TBM any longer, I don't see any other church or faith system out there that will scratch my particular itch, so I stay with the Church since it's as good a fit for me as anything else would be.

Welcome, mate.
"An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all."
- Oscar Wilde

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